McALLEN, Texas (AP) - An unprecedented surge of children caught trudging through South Texas scrublands or crossing at border ports of entry without their families has sent government and nonprofit agencies scrambling to expand their shelter, legal representation and reunification services. On any given day this year, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has been caring for more than 2,100 unaccompanied child immigrants.
The influx came to light last week when 100 kids were taken to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio for temporary housing. It was the first time the government has turned to the Defense Department _ now, 200 boys and girls younger than 18 stay in a base dormitory.
While the issue of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S. isn't new, the scale of the recent increase is. From October 2011 through March, 5,252 kids landed in U.S. custody without a parent or guardian _ a 93 percent increase from the same period the previous year, according to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services. In March alone, 1,390 kids arrived.